View full screen - View 1 of Lot 58. SEFER NOFEKH (RESPONSA), RABBI ABRAHAM BEN JACOB IBN TAWWAH, [ALGIERS: 16TH CENTURY].
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SEFER NOFEKH (RESPONSA), RABBI ABRAHAM BEN JACOB IBN TAWWAH, [ALGIERS: 16TH CENTURY]

Estimate:

15,000 - 25,000 USD

SEFER NOFEKH (RESPONSA), RABBI ABRAHAM BEN JACOB IBN TAWWAH, [ALGIERS: 16TH CENTURY]

SEFER NOFEKH (RESPONSA), RABBI ABRAHAM BEN JACOB IBN TAWWAH, [ALGIERS: 16TH CENTURY]

Estimate:

15,000 - 25,000 USD

Lot sold:

18,900

USD

SEFER NOFEKH (RESPONSA), RABBI ABRAHAM BEN JACOB IBN TAWWAH, [ALGIERS: 16TH CENTURY]


400 pages (8 x 5 3/4 in.; 203 x 148 mm) (collation indeterminate) on paper (pp. 2, 10, 155, 366-367, 380, 382 blank); watermark similar to Briquet 10746 (Genoa, 1522-1523 through Messina, 1559); modern pagination in pencil in Arabic numerals in center at foot; written in North African cursive script in black and brown ink (pp. 1-26 added in a later hand on different paper); single-column text of, generally, twenty to twenty-four lines per page; unruled; justification of lines via dilation or contraction of final letters, abbreviation, use of anticipatory letters, and insertion of space fillers; no headers; catchwords at foot of most versos; marginal numeration of responsa (with some gaps); intermittent marginalia (see, e.g., pp. 41-42, 47, 79, 82, 93, 103, 172, 179, 185, 190, 225, 236-237, 259, 280, 285, 364) and inline corrections; pen trials(?) on pp. 368-370. Enlarged incipits; table of contents on pp. 15-26; poems scattered throughout and concentrated on pp. 365, 371-379, 383-400; signature of author on pp. 56, 90, 96, 103, 106, 149, 169, 176, 180, 236, 247, 266, 284, 320, 364. Gaps in text after pp. 26, 54, 78, 106, 170, 200, 294, 308; dampstaining, generally in upper quadrant and sometimes obscuring text; some gutters strengthened; upper edges, upper-outer corners, and/or outer margins repaired throughout, mostly without loss of text, except on pp. 1-26, 345-400, where the amount of the page that is damaged increases, as does the amount of text affected; some lower-outer corners also repaired without loss; minor worming at foot near gutter, sometimes affecting individual letters and often repaired; pp. 3-6, 161-162, 167-168, 187-188, 373-378, 383-390, 399-400 silked; small holes near head of pp. 3-4 and in middle of pp. 161-162, 167-168, the latter affecting individual words; short tear in upper edges of pp. 125-126; ink biting on pp. 157-170; small ink stain on p. 243, obscuring a few words. Modern brown buckram; paper ticket with manuscript name on spine; shelf mark lettered in gilt on spine; modern paper flyleaves and pastedowns; fragment of nineteenth-century amulet printed in Jerusalem glued to pastedown of upper board.


The autograph and only known copy of an important collection of responsa by one of the leading North African rabbis of the sixteenth century.


Rabbi Abraham ben Jacob Ibn Tawwah (d. after 1551) was a prominent halakhist, yeshiva dean, preacher, cantor, and liturgical poet of Catalonian extraction based in Algiers. A descendant of both the Spanish Rabbi Moses Nahmanides (1194-1270) and the Majorcan-Algerian Rabbi Simeon ben Zemah Duran (1361-1444), he continued his forebears’ practice of answering halakhic queries on a wide range of subjects. Thirty-five of his responsa were printed in a treatise called Hut ha-meshullash, appended to the first edition of Duran’s own responsa (Amsterdam, 1738-1739). The present manuscript, entitled Sefer nofekh, originally contained an additional one hundred fifty (the numerical value of the word nofekh [spelled without the vav]) of his responsa, copied in his hand and, in several cases, signed by him with his distinctive signature: “The most humble descendant of Adam and Eve [Hawwah], Abraham ben Jacob Ibn Tawwah, of blessed memory.” (The manuscript is currently missing thirty-one of the responsa: numbers 13-26, 41, 65-75, 100, 133-134, 141-142, as well as parts of several others.)


Sefer nofekh not only covers many topics in ritual law (those areas discussed in Orah hayyim and Yoreh de‘ah) but also treats personal status and business law questions. Its pages preserve questions received from Fez in Morocco, Djerba in Tunisia, and several cities and towns in Algeria (Algiers, Tlemcen, Oran, Miliana, Constantine, Médéa, Ouargla/Mzab), especially those that had no local halakhic authority. In his answers, Ibn Tawwah traced the sources of Jewish law from the Talmud to contemporary times, objected to excessive stringency, defended established communal practice, and worked hard to minimize conflicts between members of a community. The book’s essays thus shed much light on the history and socio-religious culture of North African Jewry in the critical period following the expulsions from the Iberian Peninsula and open a window onto Ibn Tawwah’s thought, halakhic methodology, and spiritual leadership.


Ibn Tawwah was a lyrical writer, and many of his responsa include rhymed poetic portions. Toward the end of the volume is a collection of the author’s liturgical poetry, in which he displays great expertise in the principles of traditional Sephardic piyyut. Like the front matter, this section was apparently copied by the author’s grandson, Rabbi Judah ben Jacob Ibn Tawwah. Both the responsa and the piyyutim were only recently published from the present manuscript by Aaron Benisty in Jerusalem.


Contents

p. 1: title page; p. 2: blank;

pp. 3-5: alphabetic index to the subjects treated in the responsa, citing the responsa by number;

pp. 5-9: notes and extracts, mostly from the Palestinian Talmud; p. 10: blank;

pp. 11-14: responsum on contract law, apparently in Rabbi Judah ben Jacob Ibn Tawwah’s hand;

pp. 15-26: table of contents;

pp. 27-364: responsa;

pp. 365, 371-379, 383-400: poems, the majority by R. Abraham ben Jacob Ibn Tawwah; p. 381: number of chapters in each Talmudic tractate.


Provenance

1. Rabbi Judah ben Jacob Ibn Tawwah (inferred based on piyyut headings)


2. Rabbi Shemtob Gaguin (signature on amulet glued to pastedown of upper board)


Literature

Abraham Ben-Yaacob, Perakim be-toledot yehudei bavel: korot anaf ehad mi-mishpahat sassoon ha-bagdadit, vol. 2 (Jerusalem: Olam ha-Sefer ha-Torani, 1989), 556.


Yoel Catane, Shimon Shlomo Goldschmidt, Aaron Benisty, et al. (eds.), Sefer ha-tashbets, 5 vols. (Jerusalem: Mekhon Shlomo Aumann; Mekhon Yerushalayim, 1998-2013), 4:390-552, 5:357-383, 395-407.


Ephraim Hazan, Ha-shirah ha-ivrit be-algeria: mahadurah madda‘it be-tseiruf mevo’ot, he‘arot u-bei’urim (Lod: Orot Yahadut ha-Maghreb, 2009), 249.


David Solomon Sassoon, Ohel Dawid: Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the Sassoon Library, London, 2 vols. ([Oxford]: Oxford University Press; London: Humphrey Milford, 1932), 1:xxvii, 2:765-768 (no. 714).


Menahem Weinstein, “Ha-kehillot he-yehudiyyot be-algeria bein ha-shanim 1300-1830” (PhD diss., Bar-Ilan University, 1974), 138-151.


Menahem Weinstein, “Kehillat algier va-hakhameha ba-me’ot ha-16 ve-ha-17: toledot mehabberei ha-‘hut ha-meshullash’,” Bar-Ilan 14-15 (1977): 139-159, at pp. 143-151.


Dan and Gita Yardeni, “Seder hadpasato la-rishonah shel ‘sefer ha-tashbets’ le-rabbi shim‘on bar tsemah duran bi-defus naftali hirz levi be-amsterdam,” Alei sefer 10 (1982): 119-132.

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